Things to do in Ashbourne

Days out, Activity, Destinations

Posted by Ed Roberts on 4th June 2024

Red, white and blue bunting strung up in Ashbourne

At the edge of the Peak District National Park, the market town of Ashbourne is a superb choice for those of us who love an action-packed holiday. Ashbourne is considered ‘The Gateway to Dovedale' and is a great destination for hikers, cyclists, climbers and naturalists.

Ashbourne’s streets are full of Georgian and Victorian buildings and there are some great places to eat and drink in town as well as shops. It’s a pretty place to hang out between your more active adventures in the Derbyshire countryside. 

In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the best things to do in Ashbourne, whether you are planning an activity holiday or something a bit more laidback. The best way to get to know Ashbourne is by booking a stay in one of our self-catering holiday homes; click on the button below to find your perfect place to stay.

Ashbourne cottages

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Lone cyclist on the Tissington Trail on a sunny day

Hike or cycle The Tissington Trail

The popular Tissington Trail originates in the suburbs of Ashbourne. This great walking trail is one of the best traffic-free paths in the UK and it follows the course of an old railway line for 13 miles across high moorlands to the town of Mapleton.

The wild views are very impressive and offer inspiration to all. For cyclists, the Tissington Trail makes up a section of Sustrans Route 68. The road is sealed for a few miles outside of Ashbourne before it turns rougher, but the trail is generally level for most of its length.  Dogs should be kept under close control because of the presence of livestock.

Good to know

  • Difficulty: Moderate | Distance: 13 miles
  • Location: Swimming Pool Car Park, Mappleton Road, Ashbourne, DE6 1DR
  • Highlights: 7 Arches and Parsley Hay
  • Stay nearby: Church View | sleeps 2+3 dogs

Gorgeous elevated view of Ashbourne

Bag some listed buildings on a historic town walk

Join the Heritage Highlights walk in Ashbourne. Ashbourne is characterised by over 200 listed buildings. It’s a historic place with links to the author George Eliot and Dr Samuel Johnson who compiled the first English language dictionary. Seek out the distinctive St Oswald’s Parish Church and the timber-framed Birds Bakery where you can buy gingerbread made from a recipe that dates back to the Napoleonic Wars.

Other buildings include an old grammar school, almshouses, pubs, coaching inns and impressive townhouses and cottages. You may even find yourself spending your holiday relaxing at one of them.

Good to know

  • Distance: 2 miles | Difficulty: Easy
  • Price: Free
  • Start point: Shawcroft Car Park, Ashbourne, DE6 1GD
  • Highlights: Ashbourne Workhouse, Compton House, Spalden’s Almshouses, and St Oswald's Church
  • Directions: The route can be found via on-site way markers and online directions 
  • Stay nearby: Henmore Lodge | sleeps 4+2 dogs

A rollercoaster at Alton Towers during the magic hour

Go loop the loop at Alton Towers

Alton Towers needs little introduction; it’s one of the best-loved theme parks in the UK. With its high-profile cavalcade of rollercoasters and spectacular rides, a day out at Alton Towers is a must if you are planning a family holiday in Ashbourne. Whilst the park is not in Ashbourne, it’s 10.5 miles away, we’d say a day out at this awesome visitor attraction is worth the drive. Book your tickets in advance for savings and an option to fast-track the queues. You can also buy tickets for the epic Waterpark or try golf with a difference at Extraordinary Golf.

Good to know

  • Location: Alton Towers, Farley Lane, Alton, ST10 4DB
  • Tickets: Prices begin at £29.99 per person. For all options visit the website 
  • Opening times: Theme park 10am–5pm | Waterpark 10am–4pm | Extraordinary Golf 9am–6pm
  • Stay nearby: Conifer Cottage | sleeps 4+1 dog

Young revellers at the Royal Shrovetide Football event

Witness a Royal Shrovetide football match

Between Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the townsfolk of Ashbourne congregate to play a series of games that bear little or no resemblance to British football. Said to have originated in the 12th century, rumour has it that the original ball was a severed head! The two goalposts are about 3 miles apart and two teams attempt to get the ball back to their own scoring post. It’s a rough old game and it's fun to see the madness afoot firsthand. As you can tell, this event is an annual one-off that occurs around specific dates. It’s well worth your time if your visit coincides with the festivities.

Good to know

  • Location: The starting point is Shaw Croft Car Park, Ashbourne, DE6 1GD
  • Rules of the game: For the full rules and history of the game visit this website
  • Dates: Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday annually, 2pm–10pm
  • Stay nearby: The Cow Shed | sleeps 2+5 dogs

Golfer in silhouette at Ashbourne Golf Club in the evening

Watch the birdie at Ashbourne Golf Club

Ashbourne Golf Club is Derbyshire’s oldest surviving golf club, dating back to 1886. With views of Dovedale and Thorp Cloud, it’s an idyllic spot to enjoy a few rounds of the course. Ashbourne Golf Club is an 18-hole, par 71 parkland golf course with a restaurant and clubhouse. Day membership is available at this friendly club, so book a game before you leave home.

Good to know

  • Location: Ashbourne Golf Club, Wyaston Road, Ashbourne, DE6 1NB
  • Prices: Prices vary. Please visit the website for fees 
  • Opening times: Daily 8am–6pm
  • Stay nearby: The Eyrie | sleeps 6+2

Thorpe Cloud as seen from the base against a blue sky

Climb Thorpe Cloud

Feel like a spot of hill walking? Then seek out the beautifully named Thorpe Cloud which is a popular destination for those visiting Ashbourne. Just 4.5 miles out of town, this 287-metre-high limestone hill sits at the southern end of Dovedale. The views of the Midland Plain are amazing from the peak, so if you have a spare day, make sure you go view bagging at the summit of Thorpe Cloud. There is no mobile phone reception, so download your maps in advance or take an OS map instead. For more walks in the Peak District, visit this handy blog

Good to know

  • Distance: 1 mile (this is the shortest of a few trails) | Difficulty: Moderate
  • Location: Thorpe Cloud Narlows Lane, Thorpe, DE6 2AW | Free parking
  • Stay nearby: The Snug | sleeps 6+2 dogs  

Museum guide shows some young people around Ashbourne's Historical Centre

Learn about Ashbourne’s past at the Historical Centre

Doubling as the local information post for Ashbourne, the Historical Centre is the place to learn all about the town’s rich past. First mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086, the small museum is packed with artefacts. You can learn about the town’s associations with George Eliot and Dr Samuel Johnson. You can also find a selection of artefacts excavated from the river bed, a Roman tessellation, medieval black pottery, Georgian fragments, and Victorian glass and clay pipe fragments.

Good to know

  • Location: Ashbourne Historical Centre, Town Hall, Market Place, Ashbourne, DE6 1ES
  • Prices: Free entry
  • Opening times: Monday–Saturday, 10am– 3pm
  • Stay nearby: Bay Tree Barn | sleeps 2

Lady and child enjoy a film at the cinema

See a film or a play at the Elite Cinema and Theatre

Ashbourne’s independent cinema and theatre, The Elite, is the place to be for an evening if you are looking for some peaceful and passive entertainment. You may feel the need to unwind in the auditorium in front of a film after a long day of touring the area. This cinema harks back to a pre-multiplex era; if you love old public entertainment spaces, then the Elite is like stepping back into your childhood.

Good to know

Map of things to do in Ashbourne

Use our handy map to locate the things to do in Ashbourne mentioned in this blog.

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Stay at a self-catering holiday cottage in Ashbourne

Stay at one of our self-catering holiday cottages in Ashbourne. From cosy country cottages to historic homes with views of the Derbyshire countryside, find your ideal base for exploring this gorgeous part of England. Click the button below to find your perfect place to stay in Ashbourne.

Ashbourne cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.